Brand Protection
3 mins

How to trademark an idea and protect your business against infringement

How to trademark an idea and protect your business against infringement
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    Understanding how to trademark an idea is vital in protecting a business, particularly in ensuring that the brand remains distinct and identifiable among other businesses and competitors, as well as in safeguarding its products and/or services against counterfeits

    Apart from this, protecting an idea through a trademark does not only work to protect the interest of a business, but it also benefits the consumer. Certainly, when a brand’s visual and product identity is safeguarded, consumer awareness and consumer protection are also guaranteed.

    In today’s article, we will review what a trademark is and what it seeks to protect, how trademark registration is used to protect an idea, and how else trademark infringement can be prevented to safeguard your business.

    What is a trademark and what does it protect?

    As previously mentioned, trademarks and business distinguishability are significantly correlated. Specifically, a trademark refers to any recognizable sign, logo, symbol, unique name or design aspect that allows consumers to distinguish a business from another. This is precisely why in a previous post, we likened trademarks to fingerprints for brands.

    To further illustrate, some examples of trademarks are Nike’s swoosh, the Adidas three-stripe logo, Google’s search engine, or the name and golden arches of McDonald’s. Needless to say, these famous brands are easily distinguished because of their identifiable, well-known marks. With these marks successfully registered, these companies are able to preserve their legal rights over the use of such widely known trademarks.

    It is clear, therefore, that a trademark is a form of intellectual property protection that encompasses anything that has to do with brand identity. Unlike a copyright, for instance, which covers original literary and artistic works, a trademark protects a company’s symbol, words, or design that functions to set it apart from other similar enterprises.

    What are the steps to trademark an idea?

    Given this, businesses are highly encouraged to take active steps toward trademark protection. In particular, here are the 5 important Rs that you must remember on how to trademark a unique business idea:

    Research

    Before being able to successfully trademark your idea, it is important that you start with thorough research. This is to make sure that your idea is not yet a registered trademark and is not yet in use by any existing business. With the growing number of new brands and enterprises today, it is highly likely that your brand identity idea is not as unique as you thought it was. Hence, research is key.

    You may read our extensive discussion about trademark search in this article.

    Rendering

    After cross-referencing your idea with trademarks of existing brands, the next step is to produce a physical drawing of the trademark you have conceptualized and thus intend to protect. 

    For the US specifically, intellectual property laws require that trademarks be submitted as a physical drawing before the US Patent and Trademark Office acts on the application. Naturally, this helps the USPTO in determining whether the mark is indeed a unique one and is not too similar with any existing and registered trademarks. 

    Registration

    Once you already have a physical drawing of your idea, you may then proceed with trademark registration. As a matter of course, registration ensures that you are able to properly and legally address future counterfeits and misuse of your brand’s trademark. 

    If you are planning to register a trademark in the US, it is the USPTO, as mentioned above, that you will have to file with. Costs of trademark registration will vary depending on the type of application, among other factors. To learn more about US trademark registration, you may check this post.

    Regular and active use

    Protection does not end with trademark registration. In order to preserve your legal rights over the registered trademark, you will need to regularly and actively use your trademark in your business transactions. Specifically, in the US, trademark registration remains valid for up to six years. Beyond that, trademark owners will have to file with the USPTO for renewal. 

    Removal of any unauthorized trademark use

    It is also important to note that a successful trademark registration does not necessarily guarantee full protection. Counterfeiters may still penetrate the market, and other businesses may still resort to unauthorized use of your trademark. Thus, as a trademark owner, it is also your responsibility to monitor any possible misuse of your mark in order to subsequently act toward its removal.

    Trademark monitoring can be done manually, but this could get tedious and time-consuming. A better alternative is availing an accurate trademark monitoring service, much like what we offer at Red Points. With technology like bot-powered search and machine learning, you will be able to automatically detect and take down infringing listings that take advantage of your brand. 

    What else can be done to prevent trademark infringement?

    As stated earlier, a successful trademark registration does not totally guarantee that your brand will be free from risk of infringement. 

    When a business does become a target of trademark infringement, the most usual approach is to take legal action. Especially if the trademark is validly registered, legal proceedings are an effective way toward trademark enforcement.

    It cannot be denied, however, that taking legal action could cost a lot of money. Litigation and court proceedings could also take a lot of time, and this poses a problem to your business, especially if brand reputation and value are on the line. This said, another way to prevent trademark infringement is to avail Red Points’ take-down services, which essentially include scanning for potential trademark infringements and initiating a take-down process against counterfeiters and illegal trademark users.

    What’s next?

    This discussion on how to trademark an idea fundamentally highlights the importance of protecting your brand’s visual and product identity against any unauthorized use of your distinguishing mark. 

    This process need not be difficult and expensive on your end. For a cost-effective and hassle-free trademark protection approach, Red Points is here to help. Automatically find and remove trademark infringement through our trademark monitoring software. Read more about it or request a demo today.

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